The Truth about the Vatican and the Birth of Islam

(From Gary Dale Cearley’s book Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness: The Truth about the Vatican and the Birth of Islam)

Jack Thomas Chick was born April 13, 1924, in the Boyle Heights part of Los Angeles.  The year 1924 as it turns out was a leap year, and historically it was quite eventful…. 

This was the year that Vladimir Lenin died.  And Stalin came to power.  Mohandas Gandhi is released from prison.  GMT is first broadcasted hourly from the Royal Greenwich Observatory.  Nevada becomes the first US state to use a gas chamber for executions.  Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is first performed.  International Business Machines (IBM) is founded.  Calvin Coolidge becomes the first president to deliver a radio broadcast from the White House.  The Ottoman Empire collapses when Kemal Atatürk’s Young Turks rise to power.  Adolf Hitler goes to jail for his Beer Hall Putsch.  Greece becomes a republic.  J. Edgar Hoover becomes the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks in cold blood in Chicago.  Native Americans finally get the rights of United States citizenship.  Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming elected as the first woman governor in the United States. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is held in New York City.  The highest grossing film in 1924 was “The Thief of Baghdad”, starring Douglas Fairbanks. 

Jack’s mother, Pauline, who was only twenty when Jack was born, reportedly tried to abort him but was unsuccessful[1].   While he was still young Jack’s family moved curiously enough to nearby Alhambra, southeast of Los Angeles.  This is an odd footnote because Alhambra is the named of the Moorish castle in Spain that was built by the Nasrid Muslim rulers.  It was an Islamic political center until the Christians ran the Muslims out of the area in 1492.  Jack Chick would have loved them. 

Jack wasn’t the healthiest kid around, but he made do.  It is said that the Chick family doctor had to lance his ears over 20 times before he was a year old.  Maybe this had something to do with his creative side.  Jack was very artistic from his early childhood, and was keen about doodling and drawing.  Chick claimed that this pre-occupation of drawing caused him to be held back in first grade because he was so busy drawing airplanes in battle to keep up with his work.  The older Jack got the more he continued to draw.  It was in high school that Jack gained an active interest in theater arts and became a member of the school’s drama club.  He gained a two year scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse School of Theater, which had been opened since 1928 and in 1937 designated as California’s official state theater, after he finished his high school diploma in 1942, but World War II interrupted his studies there. 

After Chick’s stints in Australia, Papua New Guinea and later Japan, with the United States Army Jack returned to the Pasadena Playhouse.  The Playhouse was thriving despite having gone through the long war years.  Part of this stemmed from the fact that immediately after the Second World War the GI bill boosted the student population even more than before.  During this time there were several famous actors who studied there, such as Raymond Burr, Eve Arden and Charles Bronson.  In years to follow the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman would also become noted alumni.  And it was during Chick’s second tenure at the Playhouse that he met his bride to be, the 21 year old Lola Lynn, who he married in 1948. 

Jack and Lola spent their honeymoon time in Canada to visit her family.  But Lola Lynn’s family were born again Christians who were not impressed with Jack’s un-Christian ways.  During this time, Jack Chick had not yet become active in the Christian faith.  He had not found God. 

By his own admission, Jack had a foul-mouth which dated from his teenaged years.  This habit of using bad language most likely was intensified during the time of his military service as well as after, when Jack was around “theater types”.  Lola’s family on the other hand were more pious and followed a very fundamentalist, evangelical lifestyle.  While on his visit with them, Jack was forced to listen to Charles E. Fuller’s Old-Fashioned Revival Hour radio show, which oddly enough, was coincidentally based in the Los Angeles area where Jack Chick was from[2].   Through this radio show and Lola’s mother Jack was saved and his conversion was complete to the point that he spent years dreaming of becoming a missionary[3].   Charles E. Fuller became a lasting influence on Jack Chick. 

Chick today is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, known as Congregationalists who hold Baptist beliefs but not Baptist formal organization.  He is a “King James Only” leader who is part of a movement that doesn’t believe modern translations of the Bible can be trusted.  He is also a pre-millennial dispensationalist who believes that a terrible tribulation will descend on the earth and its inhabitants for seven years before the second coming of Christ, but that true Christian believers will be lifted out of this world and saved.  These saved Christians will not have the horrible experiences prophesied of the “last days”[4] 

Jack Chick was not only influenced by Charles E. Fuller, but also by other Christian radio broadcasts.  But one in particular helped give rise to Jack’s idea of publication of religious comic tracts.  In Chicago the Pacific Garden Mission, a well established entity which dates from 1877, began producing a Christian radio drama called “UNSHACKLED!”.  This program was first aired on the radio station WGN in 1950.  UNSHACKLED!’s first episode was about the baseball player turned evangelist, Billy Sunday.  These shows were personal accounts of people giving their souls to Christ and changing their lives.  The next step for the producers of these shows was to begin production of these stories as small comic books.  Most of these small illustrated books were based on some of the more popular shows that had aired which could be effectively used as religious tracts.  Although Jack Chick later purported that he got the idea for his religious cartoon tracts after being told by Bob Hammond[5]  that Chinese communist propaganda was often successfully spread to the peasants via cartoon tracts, the UNSHACKLED! tracts obviously had a huge influence on his work. 

Jack Chick had always wanted to be an illustrator since his early years, but until he had actually gone into the business himself, he had to satisfy himself with working as a technical illustrator at the Astro Science Corporation in El Monte, next door to his childhood home of Alhambra.  It was during this time that Jack started the hobby of illustrating tracts.  Jack was sitting in his car reading a copy of Charles Grandison Finney’s “Power From On High”[6]  given him by an old welder.  After going to church Chick noticed what he described as “all the deadness and hypocrisy” and wondered why there was no revival, such as Finney had promoted.  Chick then started the religious drawings in order to wake up Christians in their beliefs in order to pray for revival.  His first tract would carry the title “Why No Revival?”.  Jack had a problem in though in that he couldn’t find a publisher.  As such Chick was forced to self-publish and borrowed $800 from a credit union to get started.  Chick founded his own company (originally based in his kitchen) soon afterward. 

“A Demon’s Nightmare”, Chick’s first evangelical tract was written very soon after “Why No Revival”.  Jack claimed he wrote the text for this in 15 minutes and the owner of Astro Science, Jack’s boss, paid for the first printing.  

Today Jack Chick is well known for his buttons pushing comic-style tracts comic books that are pure hell-fire and brimstone content.  These publications are pure and heavy evangelism and all are from a Hell fire God fearing fundamentalist perspective. The pocket-sized tracts are graphic, quite often dealing with the leading characters’ deaths in order to bring home either their eternal salvation or eternal damnation.  On the way through you will see murders, violence, devils…  Chick wants to scare you into salvation. 

But Jack Chick, according to some, has gone out of his way with the truth. 

In many of the tracts Chick turns his sites to what he and others who share his beliefs call “false religions”.  His biggest, most preposterous claims have been aimed at two groups in particular:  The Roman Catholic Church and Islam.  Going a few steps beyond what even conspiracy theorists would dare say, Jack Chick has claimed that the Catholic Church is descendant from the ancient pagan religion of Babylon and that the pope is an agent of Satan and has commanded the Nazi army during the second world war.  He has blamed the United States civil war, the Lincoln assassination and the founding of the Ku Klux Klan on “Catholic infiltrators”, particularly Jesuits. 

George Kozak, the parish deacon of the Immaculate Conception in Ithaca, New York, has heard it all before.  “Jack Chick usually uses a ‘former Jesuit’ to tell his tales of intrigue, so I am not surprised that this story starts with ‘a former Jesuit’,” said Kozak, “Of course, it is all nonsense.  Anyone familiar with Islam and early Church history can tell it is nonsense.”  Unfortunately not everyone has the grounding in early Christian History or early Islamic History and this is what the Chick Publication tract is playing on. George Kozak is not as easy as others to swallow the hook, but then again, he’s a bit more than a lay person or an innocent bystander who got caught off guard with the false claims.  George has been ordained as a deacon since 1998 and hold’s a Master of Theology from Saint Bernard’s Institute in Rochester, New York.  George finds that these kinds of fundamentalist early Christian History revisionisms tend to follow a common pattern. 

“People like Jack Chick always claim the Catholic Church was a creation of Constantine and the ‘real’ Christians were subjugated by these ‘fake’ Christians.  Any reading of history will show you how false that claim is,” said Kozak, “Occasionally, he [Jack Chick] intersperses his false history with true facts like ‘Mohammed’s father died when he was young’ or the ‘Temple was destroyed in 70 AD’, but most of it is so off-base.  In my opinion, this is the same sort of ‘history’ that Dan Brown uses in the “Da Vinci Code” to prove that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and she is the Holy Grail.  This is a ‘history’ that is not based on fact.” 

Kurt Kuersteiner, the author of The Unofficial Guide to the Art of Jack T. Chick: Chick Tracts, Crusader Comics, And Battle Cry Newspapers, is a bit tempered about where Jack Chick is coming from.  “Yes, Chick is a fundamentalist, and that orthodox branch [of Christian fundamentalism] has been critical of Catholics for a long time,” remarked Kuersteiner, “One of the reasons is because they were systematically persecuted and executed by Catholics back in the days of the Inquisition. Whether you agree with Chick’s beliefs is really based on whether you are a literalist or not. If you are, he has some compelling arguments that are difficult to dismiss. If you are not, it is easy to wave off his claims as being politically incorrect.” 

Chick’s claims regarding Catholicism’s role in the birth Islam are the subject matter of the rest of this book.  This claim centers around one source:  Alberto Magno Romero Rivera 

To say the very least, Alberto Rivera is an extremely controversial figure.  “I consider his testimony to be a lot like those of people who have seen UFOs,” said Kuersteiner, “They MAY be telling the truth, but it is outside our experience, so it’s difficult to believe since we’ve never seen a UFO ourselves. Yet it is impossible to prove they are mistaken.  So I guess I’m saying you really have to decide on these matters yourself.  The uncertainty of it is one of the aspects that makes Chick so fascinating.” 

Alberto Rivera is the narrator and protagonist of many of Jack Chick’s comic books and tracts.  Rivera is the main character in no less than six issues of Chick’s “The Crusaders” full-size comic books which began printing in the 1970’s. 

Rivera is also the source of much of Jack Chick’s most questionable testimony. 

But who was Alberto Rivera?  What do we know about this man?  Was he for real?  Did he mean well?  Or was he a charlatan? 

Alberto Magno Romero Rivera, a Spaniard, was born in 1937 in the Canary Islands. He claimed to have been a Jesuit priest who had served many times as an undercover operative of with orders from the Jesuits to infiltrate and destroy Protestant churches and institutions in Spain and also in Venezuela and Costa Rica.  He claimed he was later rewarded by being secretly ordained as a bishop. Yet through many questionable instances in his life and through earnest, secret study of the Bible, and through reflection on God’s nature, Rivera secretly became a born again Christian.  For this change of heart, Rivera maintained that the Catholic Church kept him a physical prisoner, interrogated him in a quasi-prison like sanatorium run by the Catholic Church, then expelled him with a ticket out of Spain with and only forty cents in his pocket. 

In the 1970s he met Jack Chick, who ate Rivera’s story up and regurgitated it upon society.  It refined Chick’s beliefs about the Catholic Church which smacked of global conspiracy paranoia.  Rivera, together with another Jack Chick source, John Todd[7], laid claim that the Pope, Jesuits and other Catholic institutions not only founded Islam, but were behind the US Civil War, assassination of Abraham Lincoln, created Jehovah’s Witnesses, controls the mafia, started Communism, was behind the Holocaust (or at least complicit), created the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and on and on… 

Of course Muslims and Roman Catholics are expected to be upset over Chick and Rivera’s outrageous claims, which are often more outlandish than the Da Vinci Code’s “revelations” but there have been many Protestants and Evangelicals who took deep offense at the allegations Rivera made. Alberto Rivera’s comments through Jack Chick’s religious publications, were becoming the “face of the evangelicals” to many outsiders.  It was unfair and it was wrong.  Because of this several people who were strong in the evangelical churches felt it their duty to look into the life that Alberto Rivera lived and where he got his outrageous claims. 

It did not take a microscope to see the bacteria. 

Alberto Rivera’s accusations are covered in many books and publications.  Notable among the refutations are Karl Keating’s The Usual Suspects: Answering Anti-Catholic Fundamentalists [8].  Several Christian publications[9]  have also printed articles exposing Alberto Rivera as not only a religious fraud, but even a crook sought after by the authorities, claiming that Rivera had warrants in Florida for a stolen a credit card and money run up on its account as well as a warrant for taking an unauthorized vehicle which he apparently abandoned in Seattle.  There were also accusations that Rivera collected money for a Spanish charity (a learning institution) that was apparently not paid in to the intended charity, written checks on closed accounts, was sued for swindling over $2000 related to church property. 

Over the course of time several noted Protestant publications, including Christianity Today, Cornerstone, conducted checks and investigations which unanimously uncovered Alberto Rivera as a fraud.  But even looking into the face of the evidence concerning Alberto Rivera’s fraudulent lifestyle, Chick and several others continued to defend and support Alberto Rivera. 

Alberto Rivera has since passed away.  Officially it was colon cancer.  Jack Chick believes that the Jesuits finally got him with a secret poison that was designed in order to give Rivera his slow, painful death.  They had been trying to assassinate poor Brother Alberto for decades, ever since Rivera since he left the Roman Catholic Church.  According to a Catholic journalist, Jimmy Akin… 

“Alberto was murdered, you know,” Jack informed me. 

“Well, I understand that he had cancer, but beyond that I’m not aware of anything,” I replied. 

“Oh, yes, he was murdered.” Jack went on to say that he had been told by an ex-member of the IRA of two poisons, one of which causes cancer. “And that was what they gave him.”[10]  

Why should we care what information Chick and Rivera put out?  Jack Chick and Alberto Rivera had every right to believe what they want and to say what they wanted. 

Jack Chick and Alberto Rivera have committed in my opinion nothing more than religious slander.  They presented falsehoods that they purported to be facts and disseminated these to worldwide audiences.  Jack Chick is continuing to disseminate these books, tracts and comics under the name of God. When I say “falsehoods”, I am not speaking now about religious dogmas.  It is not for me to say how they can believe about their salvation and interpret the Bible.  I am speaking about slandering someone else’s beliefs by creating false historical settings.  I am speaking about their creations of scenarios and historical settings which distort history in an attempt to blacken the leaders and followers of their religious targets. 

The rest of this book is devoted to one tract that Jack Chick publishes.  It comes in the form of a comic book that is narrated by Alberto Rivera.  This publication is called The Prophet and is the sixth book of Chick Publications.  In my critique of this narrative I will not touch on Chick’s or Rivera’s relationship with God or what they believed to be the means of salvation.  I will stick strictly to what is and what was.  I will only look at the well documented historical facts and directly compare them to Alberto Rivera’s story.  It should be an interesting read if you, like me, find history fascinating. 

Let’s begin…

[1] According to Robert Ito in his article “To Hell with You”, The Independent on Sunday,   July 6th, 2003[2] This radio show by Dr. Charles E. Fuller was a pioneer in religious programming.  It broadcasted from a studio in Hollywood in the year 1925, moving to the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium by 1941 where it stayed until 1958, when it moved back to a studio for a 30 minute recorded session.  It first broadcast to a wide audience of 13 stations on the Mutual Network in 1937.  During World War II thousands of servicemen attended the broadcast services and would travel around the United States holding citywide services.  By 1951 the broadcast circled the globe via 650 stations on the ABC radio network and remained on the air until the death of Charles Fuller in December of 1968.  The Old Fashioned Revival Hour radio show is still available on scores of stations around the United States, short wave radio and on internet radio.

[3] Lola was against Jack becoming a missionary and based on her perception of the dangers missionaries encountered.  This was based upon a family experience when her aunt was a missionary in Africa.  At the time Lola’s aunt was pregnant and being carried across a river on a stretcher.  One of the men helping to carry the pregnant lady lost a leg to a crocodile.  Chick’s website says it was an “alligator” but alligators only live in the United States and China so it had to be a crocodile.

[4] As described in Matthew 24:37-41.

[5] Robert Bruce Hammond, 1914 – 2002, grew up in both Hong Kong and San Pedro, California. He was a missionary to Southeast Asia and was interred in a Japanese prison camp in Hong Kong in 1941.  He had a radio ministry in the United States called “Voice of China and Asia” for nearly five decades.

[6] Many of the chapters in this book, “Power From On High” were originally published in “The Independent” in New York, and date from 1871-74.  The book was first compiled and published in 1944, nearly seven decades after the author’s death.  Charles Grandison Finney (1792–1875), originally a Presbyterian, was a well known Congregationalist minister often referred to as “America’s foremost revivalist”.  Although Finney never attended college himself, he later became president of Oberlin College in Ohio.  Finney was a leader of the “Second Great Awakening” which led to many converts in the Baptist and Methodist congregations and gave rise to the Disciples of Christ and Churches of Christ.

[7] John Wayne Todd, who was also known as “John Todd Collins”, “Lance Collins”, and “Christopher Kollyns” is an evangelical minister who claimed to have been born into a ‘witchcraft family’ before converting to Christianity.  He has authored several books, mainly about the occult, which are printed by Chick Publications.

[8] Ignatius Press, 2000

[9] “Alberto Rivera: Is He For Real?”, Christianity Today, March 13, 1981; “The Alberto Story,” Gary Metz. Cornerstone Magazine, vol. 9, no. 53, 1981, pp. 29-31; “The Force and Alberto Rivera”, The Quarterly Journal, Vol 3, No 4.; “Alberto: The Truth About His Story”, Brian Onken, Christian Research Journal, 981 Volume: 4 Number: 2; “Religious Hoax of the Century: The True Story of Alberto Rivera Uncovered”,  Leslie Price, Evangelicals Now Magazine, November 2000

[10] “Meet Jack Chick: A Conversation with the Granddaddy of the Anti-Catholic Comic Book Genre”, by Jimmy Akin, This Rock Magazine, Volume 15, Number 3, March, 2004

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: